For a long time, many have talked about the disintegration of our American society in terms of core beliefs and values. Many have wondered why and how we got to where we are culturally, so fast. Bringing it closer to home, many Christians see similar disintegrations of beliefs and values in our churches, as with society, and are even more concerned. Similar questions of how and why we got here apply to the church, as for society.
Since this is a blog and not a sermon, let’s get right down to it. The disintegration of our churches is directly tied to the disintegration of our families. Boil it down to another level, the disintegration of our families stems from our marriage problems – the relational difficulties experienced between a husband and wife. When we struggle in marriage, our families are at risk, and so are our churches.
Most people try to solve marriage struggles by asking the question, “Who’s fault is it? Husband or wife? (As if assigning blame will lead to the right solution.) They then work the problem from there, often ending in futility. However, there’s a better question (if asked early enough) that will solve many struggles between husband and wife. Who is responsible for cultivating a strong marriage? Husband or wife?
The Bible gives a very clear answer for who’s responsible in Ephesians 5:22-33. In these 12-verses, the Apostle Paul gives five different charges to the husband, while the wife only receives one. To the husband Paul writes the following (with comments):
- Vs 25 – Husbands, love your wives… We should love our wives deeply, wholly, and genuinely. She is the one for you, and there is no other.
- Vs 25 – as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… We love our wives in the same way that Jesus loves His church, by dying for her. Husbands, we must die to self (our wants, desires, control, etc) and show our wives real, genuine love. Is it easy? No! We’re still sinners. But it’s worth the effort to protect and strengthen your marriage.
- Vs 26 – that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word… Not only have we been ravaged and wounded by sin, so also have our wives. Our job as husband is to gently cleanse her inner wounds; that she might heal, and become presentable to her King in all her beauty and splendor (vs 27).
- Vs 29 – for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes… The word “nourish” means “to grow”. You encourage your wife to grow by gently and lovingly teaching her the Word of God; which means you need to be studying and praying through the Bible, thereby you are growing together with her.
- Vs 29 – and cherishes… The word “cherish” means “to warm”. Hard for young men to understand, but our communication must be felt as much as heard. Your wife needs to feel kindness, gentleness, peacefulness coming from you. She must always know she has your forgiveness, even when she doesn’t ask for it, which means you’re not only being taught by the Spirit but filled and led by Him also.
Those are the five charges Paul gives to husbands. To our wives, he only gives one. Most translations use two different words in this passage; submit to your husband (vs 22), respect your husband (vs 33). However, the word “submit” is not found in vs 22 in the original Greek manuscript. Vs 22 is an extension of vs 21 – Be subject to one another; wives as to their husbands (vs 22). Wives should respect their husband’s headship in the family, in the context of husband and wife submitting to one another.
So the score is 5 to 1, and in most games on earth, that means husbands; you win! What do you win? The responsibility for a healthy marriage is overwhelmingly yours, and yet the rewards are extremely valuable and far reaching. As husbands work to make their marriages healthy, so will their families be healthy, and by extension, our churches will be successful as we live out and share the Gospel. A healthy marriage is a true reflection of the Gospel; the relationship between Jesus and the love He has for His Church. A church known for healthy and strong marriages will be a successful church that impacts the world around it.
Husband, we are the key to success. Success will not come from our amazing ability to lead or manage our businesses or activities, create new things with our career or hobbies, or by demanding efficiency or excellence from our wives or children. Success will come by first loving, sacrificing, gently cleansing, nourishing, and cherishing the wife of our youth – and then extending those same qualities to our children and extended families.
Yes, many churches have fallen as our families have been overwhelmed by fast-paced spiritual threats stemming from a rapidly changing culture. However, we can defend ourselves against the forces of darkness, for the sake of Christ in our marriages and families. It all begins with understanding that no matter how hard we try, we all fail. The benefit of a gathered church is that our friends help us by pointing to a blood-stained cross where our Lord bled and died. Jesus didn’t sacrifice Himself to make us perfect. He died to set us free! Which means, husband, the path for you to succeed in your marriage has only staying point… kneeling at the foot of the cross.
This is a call for the men of every church… let us gather together at the cross.